If you are serious about home improvement, here’s how

Taking a Masters Degree in Sustainable Architecture - Ms Hawton-Mead
Taking a Masters Degree in Sustainable Architecture - Ms Hawton-Mead of Brighton
In an informative article entitled “New tricks for old bricks: How an eco-refurbishment scheme helped convert a Victorian terrace into a green flagship.” published on the day of the Royal Wedding on Friday 29th April 2011 in the property section of the Independent on-line, it’s author, Ruth Bloomfield reports how Brighton resident Ms Maria Hawton-Mead transformed her run down property into an example of what can be can done with carefully planned and executed home improvements. In addition it is an example of how long term out-goings can be cut down with up-front investment in installing eco-friendly energy saving products.

The article stated that Ms Hawton-Mead bought the property in 1999 in a pretty poor state without central heating. Like most of us put in a new kitchen and a new bathroom, and then went back to her usual way of life. Ruth Bloomfield in her article goes on to explain that “over the years that followed Hawton-Mead’s interest in sustainability began to grow. She already had a background in building renovation and design, and decided to take a masters degree in sustainable architecture. She now works as a sustainability consultant offering advice to individuals and businesses, and last year decided it was time to practise what she preached.She had already adjusted her lifestyle and between 2008 and 2009 reduced the house’s annual carbon emissions from 2.5 tons a year to 2 tons a year by simple measures such as keeping the heating down, switching off lights vigilantly, and taking showers not baths.”It was a moral stand, I suppose,” she says. “I am not a wasteful person by nature.”

Then, over four months last year, she stepped things up. Double glazing, internal wall insulation, roof insulation, under-floor insulation and solar PV panels were installed at the house, which was also rigorously draught-proofed.

The project has reduced her carbon emissions to a projected 0.7 tons a year — an impressive 72 per cent reduction on where she started. She is also confident that her solar panels will free her from future electricity bills — and she hopes to turn a modest profit by selling power back into the grid. Gas bills will be significantly reduced thanks to the insulation work. However the cost of this work came to around £38,000 and will take, she calculates, around 50 years to pay for itself.

“I have not done it for that reason,” she says. “I want my home to be comfortable and I want lower carbon emissions because I don’t what to have a big environmental impact on the planet and I want to be an example of what can be done.”

Whilst £38,000 may seem an awful lot of investment to fork out, one has to remember that the property had no central heating, no replacement double glazing and musty old carpets, so would have be susceptible to rising damp and constant deterioration had Ms Hawton-Mead not spent the money. My guess is that even if she sold her home now, she’d more than get her money back as whoever bought it would know they would have very small energy bills going forward.


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